Innovation, Environment, Industry-4-0 15 December 2022

Recycling of multilayer and composite plastics

Recycling of multilayer plastics
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Plastics bring value as convenient, versatile and lightweight consumer products, as well as advanced performance in high-end applications such as automobiles. However, despite their usefulness, it is clear that linear, single-use consumption of plastics is incompatible with Europe’s transition to a circular economy. This model prioritises the reuse and recycling of resources, with the aim of reducing waste and retaining as much value as possible.

In terms of plastics recycling, some progress has been made. For example, 41.5% of the plastic packaging waste generated was recycled in 2018. This is still not enough to achieve full circularity, especially in the recycling of multilayer plastics that are difficult to separate. In addition, it is essential that recycling technologies keep up with new materials entering the market

Advanced plastics recycling

The EU-funded MultiCycle project aims to develop a pilot plant for industrial recycling and treatment of multilayer plastics. This plant focuses on two important industrial segments that pose a challenge for recyclers: multilayer packaging/flexible films and fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composites of the type used in the automotive sector.

Technology selection

NIR and HSI-NIR are the techniques conventionally used for container sorting. The former is suitable for individual pieces of packaging prior to shredding and can also provide an initial assessment of suitability before moving on to the latter, which provides a mode of imaging. In the MultiCycle project, packaging materials were fed onto a conveyor in the form of flakes up to 5 cm and therefore HSI was the target technique for final implementation in the prototype incoming control system. However, point NIR spectroscopy was the target technique used for monitoring dissolved and recovered plastics during and after the CreaSolv® process, where no imaging capability is required. Complementary techniques such as LIBS and FTIR have also been preliminarily tested to detect other fractions such as AlOx or to enable the detection of black containers, which could improve the accuracy of monitoring when a full system is implemented.

Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)

NIR spectroscopy is a vibrational spectroscopic technique. In this region, absorption spectra are composed of overtones and combination bands with respect to the fundamental modes of molecules in the mid-infrared region. NIR radiation has a wavelength range of 900 to 2500 nm. The absorption bands in this region are broad, due to the high degree of band overlap. In addition, due to the selection rules of the phenomena, the signal intensity is ten to a thousand times weaker than signals in the mid-infrared region. However, this lack of intensity and the high band overlap is compensated by its high specificity. The specificity of NIR spectroscopy is based on the fact that NH, OH and CH bonds strongly absorb radiation at these wavelengths, which makes it an optimal tool for the study of organic compounds and polymers. In addition, the use of multivariate methods for the analysis of spectral data has made it possible to exploit the full potential of the technique for identification, discrimination, classification and quantification purposes.

Hyperspectral imaging system in the shortwave infrared region (HSI-SWIR)

Current technologies for the monitoring and classification of solid plastic waste in the near-infrared region have incorporated hyperspectral cameras in their configuration. They allow, instead of collecting a single spectrum, to record a hyperspectral image (HSI) of the sample (hyperspectral cube), which contains not only the spatial location of the sample, but also its chemical composition and distribution. In this regard, several publications and technological developments have been made using HSI-SWIR for the classification and identification of plastics.

A basic hyperspectral imaging system, shown in Fig.3, includes in its configuration, a sensitive sensor (CCD camera); a broadband illumination source; a spectrometer, which separates the backscattered/transmitted light into its different wavelengths and, when required, a conveyor belt for sampling. In this case, it should be noted that the conveyor belt must be synchronised with the recording speed of the CCD sensor for proper image acquisition. A hyperspectral system provides a hypercube as output. A hypercube is a set of data arranged in three dimensions, two spatial (an XY plane) and one spectral (𝜆, wavelength), as depicted below.

Measurement parameters:

The most relevant parameters for hyperspectral cube recording can be summarised as follows:

  • Camera frame rate (fps)
  • Transporter speed (m/s)
  • Camera-transporter distance (cm) and collection time (µs). These parameters are interrelated and must be optimised to obtain good quality recorded spectra.

The hyperspectral images were recorded with a SWIR camera operating in the range ∼900-1700 nm, at a frame rate of 214 fps, with an integration time of 350𝜇s and a transporter speed of 25m/min.

Recycling of multilayer plastics

Figure 1: (Left) Sample set no. 1. Includes flexible plastic films of PE, PP, PA and PET. Single and double combinations of these polymers (i.e. polymer A/polymer B) were included. (Right) Classification image made by a PLSDA model.

Project conclusions

The HSI monitoring system has been able to provide a good approximation of the percentage of polymer content in a multilayer polymer sample. In the worst case, the most abundant polymer present in the sample is predicted, so with large batches, the final percentages would be fairly accurate. In terms of monitoring the dissolution process, only 1 polymer and 1 solvent were provided for testing in IRIS. The results obtained with Visum Palm™ were as expected, but no process models were tested over time. The dissolution control was not performed due to problems with the viscometer installed in LOEMI. For this reason, there are no further results in this section. The viscometer for the dissolution process was sent to LOEMI with the HSI control installation, but was not returned.

For the monitoring of the automotive samples, the selected technique was LIBS. The optimisation of LIBS was complicated, as it was the first time it was used. Models were run by changing different parameters to select the best conditions. The PATbox tool for LIBS did not allow data acquisition at the same speed as the LIBS software, so the models had to be modified. Finally, the models were calibrated and tested to predict the type of fibres in the black plastics PP and PA. The results obtained in the 3 batches were satisfactory, as the predictions given by the models (chemometrics and machine learning) were close to the real content. Some tests were performed to differentiate between PP and PA, but the classification rate was around 80% of good predictions. In general, mislabelling and soiling of the samples were not very useful for the development of the prediction models.

By IRIS Technology Solutions
Environment, Industry-4-0 22 September 2022

Sorting and quantification of organic waste

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Sorting and control of organic waste in biogas production

In this article we will discuss how it is possible to optimize the treatment of organic municipal solid waste used for biogas production with hyperspectral technology to improve the quality and yield of biomethane, based on the application that IRIS Technology has developed for the Biomethanization Plant of Las Dehesas (FCC), in Madrid based on its Visum HSI™ organic waste sorting system.

The problem of organic waste separation

In the last year alone, the Spanish economy generated more than 138 million tons of waste, of which only 15% was reused to manufacture new products, by-products or raw materials. Moreover, Spain is still below the EU target of recycling 50% of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) also stipulated in Law 22/2011 on waste and contaminated soils. Despite the fact that some communities have managed to achieve high recycling rates, organic waste remains one of the main headaches for the Administration and waste treatment and recycling plants.

This is because a large part of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) is contaminated with inorganic materials, mainly packaging – another of the great challenges of recycling – and plastics, where optical sorting and spectroscopy technologies have become great allies.

Biogas production

One of the main destinations for the reuse and revaluation of organic waste is the production of biogas, which is converted in biomethanization plants into biomethane, a type of gas suitable for injection and commercialization in the gas network, complying with certain quality and safety standards. In these plants, such as the one in Las Dehesas in Madrid, the organic fraction of the solid waste is treated to avoid high percentages of “improper” (presence of inorganics) which, once in the biodigesters, cannot be used in the fermentation process and, consequently, the result is a suboptimal quality and performance of the process and the final product.

To this end, IRIS Technology, within the framework of the European Scalibur project, installed an HSI™ hyperspectral imaging system in the FCC line in order to quantify and classify waste according to whether it is organic or inorganic. Beyond the various intermediate controls, the removal of bulky waste, plastic bags, etc., knowing the percentage of organic waste is a key parameter for adjusting the biological process that takes place in the digesters.

organic waste sorter

Separation of organic and inorganic waste

The organic waste sorter Visum HSI™ based on hyperspectral technology allows to obtain real-time data on the percentage of organic and inorganic waste, as well as to locate the different components on the conveyor belt, to know the average composition of the waste, to monitor the evolution of the waste composition over time and to extract useful information for decision making in waste management, production and circularity.

Resultados Scalibu

The implementation of the HSI system has allowed FCC to monitor in real time the waste in order to improve the flow corresponding to the organic fraction and, consequently, a fermentation process with a lower level of impurities, maximizing the key parameters of the fermentation process.

For more information about this project and the technology, please visit Scalibur’s website or write to our mail:

By IRIS Technology Solutions
Challenge, Environment 12 August 2022

IRIS Technology launches “BioWaste Hub”

BioWaste Hub
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Did you know that more than 100 million tonnes of organic waste is thrown away every year within the European Union?

Currently, 75% of organic waste goes to landfill or is incinerated, causing major environmental problems as it pollutes soil, groundwater and emits greenhouse gases. The remaining percentage is mainly used to generate biogas and compost as a biological fertiliser. In other words, the amount of organic waste that is cycled back into the economy, i.e. used to produce goods of economic value, is very low.

BioWaste Hub

BioWaste Hub: informs, educates, connects and transforms

IRIS Technology’s hyperspectral system classifying organic waste to optimise parameters of a bioreactor in Madrid.

BioWaste Hub: informs, educates, connects and transforms

In this context, IRIS Technology launched the “BioWaste Hub” initiative, a platform created in the framework of the European Scalibur project (Horizon 2020) together with a large consortium of companies and institutions from all over Europe, which connects all the players in the bio-waste management value chain: collectors, municipalities, energy providers, sorters, research centres, private companies and anyone who wants to participate and play a role in helping to convert all that huge amount of waste into materials with economic utility such as bioplastics, biofilms, biocomposites, energy or biofertilisers. In turn, BioWaste Hub is a valuable resource centre containing all the research applied to organic waste management, recovery techniques and available technologies that has been developed in the last 6 years of work of the European consortium in which IRIS Technology participates mainly with technological solutions for detection, measurement and classification of waste.

By IRIS Technology Solutions
Environment, Innovation 3 August 2022

Circular Economy: Bioplastics vs. black plastics

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Circular Economy: Bioplastics vs. black plastics

By 2022, a significant share of used plastics – in some countries more than two thirds – will be incinerated or sent to landfill, and only a small share will be recycled (30%). In this context, there is an urgent need to find biodegradable substitute materials for black plastics that cannot be recovered today by traditional optical and sorting techniques, while maintaining their functional properties in industrial applications.

In this context, IRIS Technology presented last July at SIMULTECH 2022, its research “Biodegradation prediction and modelling for decision support”, a mathematical AI model that allows predicting the biodegradation of natural materials of food origin that are candidates to replace carbon compounds currently used in the automotive industry, electronics, plastic bags, among others.

Bioplastics and black plastics

The term bioplastic is a complex one, encompassing materials that come from renewable sources and materials that are biodegradable. While many plastics, under certain natural or man-made conditions, are degradable, not all are recoverable. In particular, black plastics, because of their pigment or colour, escape the traditional infrared systems used in the recycling industry for their separation.


The work being carried out by IRIS Technology together with a dozen European entities falls under the umbrella of the European BIOnTop project, which aims to develop a range of bioplastics and complementary coatings and validate their use in food and personal care packaging, determining their environmental impact and the economic viability of an extended substitution project in the industry.

Administrations and Companies participating in the project

  • Germany: European Bioplastics EV, Fachhochschule Albstadt-Sigmaringen
  • Belgium: Istrazivanjei Razvoj Centre Scientifique & Technique del’Industrie Textile Belge ASBL, Organic Waste Systems NV, Sioen Industries NV
  • Slovenia: BIO-Mi Drustvo S Ogranicenom Odgovornoscu za Proizvodnju
  • Spain: AIMPLAS, Cristobal Meseguer SA, Emsur Macdonell SA, IRIS Technology Solutions SL, Queserías Entrepinares SA, Ubesol SL
  • Estonia: Wearebio OU
  • Italy: Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per la Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali, Enco SRL, Laboratori Archa SRL, Movimento Consumatori, Planet Bioplastics SRL, Romei SRL
  • Netherlands: Total Corbion PLA BV
  • Czech Republic: Silon SRO
By IRIS Technology Solutions
Digitalization, Environment, Industry-4-0 22 June 2022

Identification and characterization of polymers with portable NIR technology

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The plastic recycling industry presents an enormous complexity for the separation of the different types of polymers and among the most widespread techniques for this purpose are the spectroscopic ones. We will not discuss all of them in this article, as it would imply diving into the world of R&D, new in-line detection technologies and their practical or economic limitations in trying to reach the aspirational standards in terms of recycling and circularity of the European Union.

However, following an eminently practical approach, an agile and effective way to identify different compounds or plastic mixtures for recycling or industrial reuse is through NIR spectroscopy. This technique is based on the interaction of light with matter and makes it possible to observe the different absorbances produced by the vibrations of the bonds between the atoms of the polymers. As a result, a characteristic spectrum of each type of plastic is obtained, which can be quantified and classified by means of a predictive machine learning model.

The Visum Palm™ handheld NIR analyzer.

The Visum Palm™ analyzer, a portable NIR instrument operating in the SWIR range (1-1.7 μm), is particularly suitable for successful quantitative (composition) and qualitative (identification and classification) characterization of a wide variety of materials and mixtures. For this reason, the use of the Visum Palm leads to significant savings in analytical workload and substantial reductions in waiting time.

In addition, its ubiquitous nature -due to its portability- and the possibility of programming it to determine multiple parameters at the same time, allows it to be used in a wide variety of analytical tasks at the production line, in logistics warehouses and even for applied research studies and the development of proprietary models carried out by AIMPLAS, a reference in the plastics sector in Spain.

Main features and generic advantages of SWIR spectroscopy:

  • Determination of multiple parameters with a single instrument.
  • Real-time and continuous analysis for automatic and instantaneous correction of process parameters.
  • Non-destructive determinations without sample preparation.
  • Excellent repeatability.
  • Use does not require skilled operators.

Although there are several portable NIR instruments on the market, it is essential to take into account the spectral range with which the instrument works and the size of the spot (measuring point) to ensure representativeness of the reading with respect to the sample. The Visum Palm™ System introduces a 10mm spot and a powerful spectrophotometer that works in the range 900-1700 nm.

Identification and classification of polymers in the industry

The Visum Palm™ instrument includes a library of models for reading and determination at the line, without sample preparation and in a few seconds that allows characterization of a large number of polymers, including PET (polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE (high density polyethylene), LDPE (low density polyethylene), PP (polypropylene), PS (polystyrene), PVC (vinyl or polyvinyl chloride), PC (polycarbonate), ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), to name a few, including more complex mixtures.

Identification and separation is important in polymer manufacturing, since in order to reprocess plastic waste, manufacturers must ensure that the plastic materials are as pure and clean as possible and, of course, the price manufacturers pay recyclers for the plastic waste they supply depends on this. In addition, low levels of impurities can already considerably affect the quality and yield of a complete recycling batch. In this context, spectroscopy techniques combined with machine learning models make it possible to introduce important automatisms and quality controls sensitive to the needs of the industry.

By IRIS Technology Solutions

Among the 60 million tonnes of plastic produced in Europe every year, only 30% of the total is recycled and the 79% of plastic waste has ended up in landfills or as litter in the natural environment. This is a fact that will produce an environmental disaster in a not too far future.

The European Commission has put in place some recent measures to help make plastic more sustainable. A plastics strategy adopted in 2018 aims to tackle the problem by transforming how plastic products are designed, used, and recycled. One key target is to recycle 55% of plastic packaging by 2030. Packaging, which is often made up of different types of plastic, making it challenging to recycle, has a high environmental footprint: about 40% of plastic produced is used for packaging, which is typically discarded after use.

As part of the MultiCycle project, Dr. Elodie Bugnicourt, Project Manager, H2020 and Innovation Unit leader at IRIS, and her project partners are aiming to scale up a patented process called CreaSolv developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Munich, Germany which can give multilayer packaging and fiber-reinforced composites a second life again and again.

With the CreaSolv process, recycled plastic is of high quality and the process is more efficient. It can recover a polymer instead of a monomer which is an advantage because it is not necessary to use energy to polymerize the material again.

After several small scale trials with multilayer packaging and composites, CreaSolv goes a step beyond, the design of a large-scale pilot plant in Bavaria where trials should start in July.


‘We want to demonstrate that it’s possible to have a circular economy in the plastic sector.’ Dr Tatiana Garcia Armingol, CIRCE, Zaragoza, Spain

Dr. Tatiana Garcia Armingol, director of the energy and environment group at CIRCE energy research center in Zaragoza, Spain, and her colleagues are demonstrating that conventional recycling can be improved to boost the recovery rate of certain hard to recycle plastics as part of the POLYNSPIRE project with the use of two technologies as adding vitrimers and high energy irradiation to increase the resistance of recycled materials.

We are in front of great proposals to finally transform the plastic sector into a circular economy.


Keep following us for being up-to-date about this and more innovative breakthroughs.

Click on the following link to read the whole article written by Sandrine Ceurstemont at ‘HORIZON’, The EU Research and Innovation Magazine.

By Lorena Vázquez